I once had a mentor ask me, “What percentage of the population has experienced back pain?” 

I foolishly guessed somewhere around 70%, when the correct answer was unequivocally 100%.

Back pain is something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives and sadly, it’s often dealt with incorrectly.

The onset of back pain is followed by resting and inactivity and finally a trip to the physician a week later.

If a x-ray diagnosis of “nonspecific back pain” and a prescription of anti-inflammatories/muscle relaxers was going to cure back pain, then we’d have an overall happier society.

But rest assured, it doesn’t. 

A diagnosis of nonspecific back pain provides the illusion that the pain is without cause or reason. 

Degeneration and aging are often to blame. However, we don’t cite “degenerative face disease” as the reason for getting wrinkles and crows feet.

There’s always a true reason and, as we like to call it in the clinic, a functional diagnosis.

Alterations in training volume, too much sitting, depression and/or lack of sleep, lack of variety in movement; the potential culprits of back pain are endless. But there’s always a reason and to use the umbrella label of “nonspecific back pain” is lazy, ineffective and very very costly.

Americans and their doctors have come to expect “cures” for everything — and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments without a “magic pill.” Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health. 

So, what’s the right way?

Most importantly, seek care immediately.

Research tells us that seeking immediate care within 72 hours of back pain results in reduced pain and improved outcomes compared to waiting and then seeking physician assistance. Pain is not a life sentence and doesn’t mean damage. Therefore, we should continue to do the things that we love while monitoring our response and tolerance to those activities.

Rest is often necessary, but rest alone will not allow you to return to training and a pain-free lifestyle.

Progressive loading, with graded exposure to noxious stimuli, is what will allow our bodies to heal, adapt and become pain-free.

As always, if you have questions, comments or concerns about this topic, shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to chat.